Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Herstory Gallery, fourth floor
200 Eastern Parkway at Washington St.
Thursday, March 26, free with museum admission, 6:00-9:30
Exhibition continues through July 12
eyes of time online slideshow
In her exceptional new site-specific installation, “Eyes of Time,” in the Brooklyn Museum’s Herstory Gallery, multimedia artist Chitra Ganesh investigates female divinity, multiplicity, and power, inspired by the goddess Kali, one of the women honored with a place setting in Judy Chicago’s seminal work “The Dinner Party,” the centerpiece of the museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, home to the Herstory Gallery. Ganesh, a lifelong Brooklynite, supplements her wall sculpture with selections from the museum’s collection, comprising contemporary works by Kiki Smith, Shoichi Ida, and Barbara Jones-Hogu as well as a small seventeenth-century Indian bronze of a standing Kali and an ancient Egyptian bronze of a seated Sekhmet. “In mythic tales both Sekhmet and Kali are connected to blood, death, destruction, and protection, and to fierce animals such as lions and tigers,” Ganesh writes in a wall label. “These qualities contrast with characteristics typically idealized in women today and point to the formidable roles played by the ancient goddesses.” About Louise Bourgeois’s 1996 drypoint, “Eyes,” Ganesh adds, “The third eye, as seen on Kali, has often been associated with supernatural powers in Indian mythology and continues to appear in contemporary imagery. The act of gazing into numerous eyes might also recall the practice of darshan, a dialectical and spiritual way of looking that considers the object as both image and living being, providing an experience of seeing that informs South Asian culture.”
Those explanations also offer just the right way to approach “Eyes of Time,” a sprawling mural of three women that covers one wall of the gallery. At the left is a contemporary figure holding a jagged, starlike piece of the universe over one eye while the other eye looks directly at the viewer. In the middle is a figure based on Kali, the goddess of time, change, and destruction, who has six arms, three legs, three breasts, and a skirt of severed arms of different colors. Words emerge from her long hair, including “quicksand,” “rainbows,” and “knowing.” One hand has an eyeball in its palm, one holds a whip, while another wields a blood-dripping scythe with an eye on it. Instead of a head, on her neck is the Grand Central clock, without its hands. And on the right is a science-fiction woman made out of such machine parts as gears and speakers laid out in a kind of architectural rendering. All three women, representing the past, the present, and the future, have shiny jewels embedded into their being, while two rows of decorated flags hang above them. In some ways, it’s like the three figures have escaped from Ganesh’s comic book Tales of Amnesia, which is also on view, giving three-dimensional life to these superhero characters. “These narrative devices allude to the power of multiple forms of femininity that coexist within the same frame and, at times, within a single being, as well as to darker aspects of Kali,” Ganesh writes about her 2002 book. On March 26, the Brooklyn Museum’s next edition of “Art Off the Wall” will celebrate “Eyes of Time” with an evening of special activities, consisting of an artist and curator talk with Ganesh and Saisha Grayson, a zine library inspired by Tales of Amnesia, screenings of three of Ganesh’s short films (Rabbithole; What Remains; My dreams, my works must wait till after hell…), a movement workshop with Ajna Dance Company, and a Bhangra dance party with DJ Rekha.